Most countries lagging on 2030 health SDGs

Singapore leads 188 countries while Afghanistan comes in last in terms of meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all.

cycling event in Singapore
Bikers participate in a cycling event in Singapore. Image: chuwasg, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists warn that unless significant political and financial investments are made, many countries will not meet the health-related UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Fewer than five per cent of the countries were likely to meet targets on road deaths, childhood obesity, suicides and tuberculosis. However, over 60 per cent of the countries were on track to meet targets on malaria, child mortality and neonatal and maternal death rates, according to a study published this month (12 September) in The Lancet.

Singapore ranked first and Afghanistan last out of 188 countries in terms of meeting SDG 3, which deals with ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all.

European countries made up most of the top 20 while the United States is at number 24. China ranked 74th with low scores on air pollution, road injury, poisoning and smoking, while India scored 128th position with low scores on air pollution, sanitation, hepatitis B and child wasting.

Health reforms and policies, such as expanding health insurance scheme to rural populations and unemployed urban residents in China, have helped some low- and middle-income countries, such as, China, Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Rwanda and Turkey record the greatest improvements on the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) indicator between 2000 and 2016.

This evidence will show which countries, in what priority areas of national health development, are falling behind and need to do more to meet the SDGs.

Alan Lopez, University of Melbourne

This is the second global baseline assessment of the SDGs and includes four new indicators (vaccine coverage, physical and sexual violence, childhood sexual abuse and well-certified death registration), and significant updates to the UHC indicator.

The study is part of the Global Burden of Disease enterprise by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. It estimates progress for 37 out of 50 health-related indicators included in the SDGs, as well as an overall health-related SDG index.

“This evidence will show which countries, in what priority areas of national health development, are falling behind and need to do more to meet the SDG goals,” says Alan Lopez, director of the Global Burden of Disease Group and Rowden-White Chair of Global Health and Burden of Disease Measurement at the University of Melbourne.

Lopez tells SciDev.Net that countries should be made accountable through independent, annual assessments.

On the basis of current trends, Angola, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Swaziland and Timor-Leste were projected to have the largest improvements on the overall health-related SDG index by 2030.

Improvements were mainly driven by projected performance on child mortality and UHC, met need for family planning with modern contraceptive methods, and skilled birth attendance.

Serbia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Venezuela were among the countries projected to experience worsening performance by 2030, driven by current trends on childhood obesity and harmful alcohol use.

Only seven per cent of the countries were projected to meet the target on HIV/AIDS, and no country was projected to reach the SDG target on TB.

“The analysis of the global burden of disease provides a timely observation on where the world stands in its approach to the health-related SDGs,” Annmaree O’Keeffe, non-resident fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy, tells SciDev.Net.

“More importantly, this is a much needed reminder for policy makers to focus on the fact that achieving these goals for the world’s poor will take a much greater commitment by countries and international organisations than is currently the case.”

“That responsibility is shared by all partners and needs not just a funding boost but policy settings by national governments which address the range of issues which contribute to poor health,” she adds.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.

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